(AP) — Jeff Bezos blasted off Tuesday on the first flight of his space travel company with people on board, becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own rocket.
The Amazon founder zoomed toward space with a hand-picked group; his younger brother, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands, and an 82-year-old aviation pioneer from Texas — the youngest and oldest to ever hurtle off the planet.
Named after America’s first astronaut Alan Shepard, the Blue Origin rocket soared from remote West Texas on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a date chosen by Bezos for its historical significance.
He held fast to it, even as Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson pushed up his own flight from New Mexico in the race for space tourist dollars and beat him by nine days.
Unlike Branson’s piloted rocket plane, Bezos’ capsule was completely automated and required no official staff on board for the anticipated 10-minute, up-and-down flight.
Blue Origin was shooting for an altitude of roughly 66 miles (106 kilometres), more than 10 miles (16 kilometres) higher than Branson’s ride on July 11.
The passengers were expected to experience about three to four minutes of weightlessness to float around the spacious capsule and peer out the huge windows.